Boeing greets Hu with cheers

EVERETT – Chinese President Hu Jintao told thousands of workers at the Boeing Co.’s assembly plant on Wednesday that their airplanes are vital to his country’s rapidly growing commercial aviation industry.

Dan Bates / The Herald

Chinese President Hu Jintao addresses Boeing workers at the Everett plant after an introduction by Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Alan Mulally.

Boeing has an opportunity to play a huge role in the expansion of China’s airlines, Hu said. In the next few years, the company will deliver 380 new jetliners to China, including 150 737s and 60 787 Dreamliners, Hu said through a translator.

During his stop Wednesday at the Everett plant, Hu toured the 747 assembly line. He sat in the back of a modified golf cart as it tooled around the world’s largest building by volume. Hu also looked at a new 777 being built for Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and part of a model fuselage for the 787 Dreamliner.

Hu said he was impressed by the factory’s technology, its experienced workers and the “innovative spirit you see at the Boeing plant.”

In his 10-minute speech to more than 5,000 Boeing workers, Hu said his country’s ties with Boeing are a “living example” of the possible benefits from expanded trade between U.S. and China.

“Boeing has a very close partnership with China. Boeing, in fact, is a household name in my country,” he said, noting that he flew from China on a 747-400 built in Everett.

He said Chinese airlines have bought nearly 680 aircraft from Boeing since the two established a relationship in 1972. More than two-thirds of the aircraft in China’s civilian fleet are Boeing models, he added.

His government estimates that China’s airlines will need another 2,000 planes in the next 15 years to keep up with demand for air travel there.

“This clearly points to a bright tomorrow for future cooperation between Boeing and China,” Hu said. “I sincerely hope that the cooperation between Boeing and China will strengthen in the future and expand to become even more successful.

“I also sincerely hope that the economic and trade relations between our two countries in general will prosper further and fly higher, just like a Boeing plane,” he said to cheers from the audience.

Hu then received a Boeing cap from Paul Dernier of Mukilteo, an installations supervisor on the 777 line. Hu responded with an uncharacteristic but heartfelt hug.

“I’ve never hugged a president before,” Dernier said afterward.

Allen Huang, a software developer for the 787, said Hu seemed like a personable leader in his speech and in his response to the Boeing workers. For Huang, a native of China whose first plane ride was on a Boeing aircraft, Wednesday’s visit had special meaning.

“China and the U.S. used to be allies in World War II, and I’m very glad they’re working together now,” he said.

Alan Mulally, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, ended the ceremony with an exuberant shout of “China rocks!”

“Our plan is to continue working closely with China, its airlines and its industries to build an even stronger future together,” he said in his earlier introduction of Hu. “We will continue to be a leading advocate for stronger trade relations between our countries.”

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or fetters@heraldnet.com.

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